The Madeira Live, 2013

Last night, my wife and I had a date.  Having as many kids as we do makes this rather difficult at times.  Granted, we did have some choice in having all of the kids we do, so I can’t really complain too much about our confinement to the Birzer home on the weekends.   sandstorm

Of course, it’s my wife’s fault we have so many kids, but that’s another story.

We only had to travel about 1.2 miles to the site of our date, the Dawn Theater–a restored movie theater from the last century now turned into a nice dinner club with a full bar, great lighting, and nice acoustics.  You must understand, we live in a town with a population of only 8,000 and a county that seems to have more Blue Laws than all of the Bible Belt states put together (as a good friend of mine notes, Hillsdale must be one of the view places in which any one can rent the most disturbing and raunchy video imaginable (or, let’s hope, unimaginable) after church on Sunday mornings, but you are forbidden from buying a bottle of vodka–INSANITY!).

So, a nice dinner club is a stunning thing in Hillsdale County, and Peg Williams does a brilliant job of running it.  Thank you, Peg.

But, to top it all off, we got to hear The Madeira play.  It was my first time to see them, though they’ve toured throughout North America and Europe previously.  I pray it will not be my last time.

The Madeira, led by my close friend, political ally, and colleague in the economics department at Hillsdale College, Ivan Pongracic, specializes in Surf Rock.  I hate to admit it, but I’m really not that familiar with the genre–coming out of the Middle East originally but exploding in California in the very early 1960s.

As the band explains it on their website:

The Madeira plays surf music born of screaming wind over the sand dunes of the Sahara Desert, deafening echoes of waves pounding the Gibraltar Rock, joyous late-night gypsy dances in the small towns of Andalucia, and exotic cacophony of the Marrakesh town square. It is the surf music of the millennia-old Mediterranean mysteries.

To my untrained ear, the music most resembled that of Chris Isaac and of Ennio Morricone from the Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s.

band2008From my rather ignorant understanding of Surf, it struck me as possessing a really traditional rock rhythm section (bass and drums in almost perfect syncopation) but with a very mischievous lead guitar and a devastatingly hyperactive rhythm guitar.   The drums, especially, had an interesting sound–and for those of you who have any understanding and knowledge of drumming and percussion, please forgive me–as there was an emphasis on the deepest bass drum and on the highest cymbals, with little attention on the middle range.

Overall, the lack of lyrics and the place of Surf in history of the pre-radical sixties, gave the music a real innocence.  But, it was the innocence of genius, not of decadence.

The whole show last night–just a little under one hour long–overflowed with the energy of a thousand stars.  Amazing.  The audience enjoyed it just as much as the band.  Everyone enjoyed it.

Granted, I’m biased, as I think the world of Ivan, but he served as the perfect leader of the band.  He played with finesse and confidence, and he had the audience completely in the palm of his hand.  He joked, often, of the commercial suicide he and the band committed by dedicating themselves to Surf.  Well, what may be bad for the pocket book is perfectly healthy for the soul.

The Madeira is Ivan Pongracic (lead guitar), Patrick O’Connor (rhythm guitar) , Todd Fortier (bass), and Dane Carter (drums).  Their studio CDs (Double Crown Records) are 1) Sandstorm (2005) and 2) Carpe Noctem (2007), and 3) Tribal Fires (2012).  To order The Madeira’s studio CDs (and I very much encourage you to), go here.

4 thoughts on “The Madeira Live, 2013

  1. Brad,
    Having listened to most of the album, they sound spookily like The Shadows (I presume you know them ?)…thats without the eternally youthful Cliff RIchard. As a result this really takes me back to the 70s when they used to appear on pop shows, although they started in the late 50s, born out of the ‘skiffle’ scene. They had a massive hit with ‘Apache’ and released many albums including ‘Surfing with The Shadows’. A huge band in the UK before the Beatles arrived on the scene. I love the twangy guitar.
    I am a great admirer of the ‘Master’ Ennio Morricone, particularly his fantastically atmospheric Spaghetti Western music but I don’t really get that vibe in Madeira’s music, who are much faster and up-beat (although the twangy guitar is a similarity).
    NIce stuff though


    1. Thanks, Ian! It really was a blast. I don’t think I can answer any of this, but Ivan has promised to weigh in at some point soon. I don’t know the SHADOWS, but should check them out. As to Morricone, perhaps Ivan (an escapee from Yugoslavia many decades ago) has a Clint Eastwood type of persona.


  2. Thanks so much for the wonderful review, Brad, and for attending in the first place! I’m very glad that both you and Dedra had a nice time. And thanks to Ian for checking out our stuff. Ian, you’re absolutely right about the Shadows connection. I grew up in former Yugoslavia, and my dad used to play in Shadows cover bands on the Adriatic sea in the ’60s. I also love them, and in fact, my dad and I have been sporadically doing a Shadows tribute act by the name of the Troubadours since 2000 (I reminded Brad that he saw us way back around ’02 or so), with the Madeira drummer Dane Carter, incidentally. The stuff the Madeira plays owes a heavy debt to the Shadows, but we throw in a large dollop of authentic surf music, stuff like Dick Dale and the Astronauts, as well as the Aussie variant of surf music embodied in the great Atlantics.

    Brad, your two references are spot on – both Isaak (I’m a huge fan!) and Morricone were greatly influenced by surf music and the Shadows. Good job!

    Thanks to both of you again!



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